I have this re-occuring dream. I’m inside Christopher Nolan’s mind. Inside his brain while he sleeps. There are two labeled doors, one conscious. The other sub-conscious. Already, I’m bored, but I hear music through the cracks in the sub door, so I push it open. It’s a Japanese mansion with a smoky lounge with a room full of strange people all listening to Stevie Nicks. She’s onstage, says some rubbish about just having smoked weed. Cackles, showing lots of age lines. Leans into some familiar chords on a dulcimer.  A drum machine keeps the beat.

Now here you go again, you say, you want your freedom.” She’s looking right through me. “Well, who am I to keep you down?” Her voice is creeping me out, so I scan for an exit door. A voice says run. So, I do, or we do. Someone is on my ass, chasing me? I don’t turn around.

Outside the club, an outdoor café in some busy city. Turns out the chaser is Paris Hilton with some little dog and her cell phone which she is constantly checking. Texting. Checking. Texting.

“Hello?” I say.

Giggles. “Where’s our waiter?” she asks.

I figure this might be a long night. “Do you have any idea why you’re here?”

She looks up from her Iphone. Shrugs. “I give up. Picture time. ” She snaps a quick photo of herself.

The waiter brings our coffee.

“He was cute,” she says. “I think, but I’m not sure, I mean, this is kinda random, but are you my philosophy teacher?” She ends her sentences on an upward swing. “Like, Philosophy 101?”

I laugh. “Maybe. Who knows?”

“Yeah, that’s funny, cause I never am. Sure. Of anything.”

So, I start to explain why I think we are there, how we ended up ditching Stevie and are supposed to find a millionaire’s son, but she fidgets.

“Do you know any?” she asks. “Millionaires, I mean.”

“I don’t.” But then, maybe that’s why we’re here. Why she’s here.

“Cmon,” she says, “Let’s ditch this hole.”

And as soon as she says hole, little fireless explosions ignite all around us in slow-mo.  Pieces of the café, street, animals blow into smithereens in slow-motion and my eyes widen.

“Are you see-?”

She nods. “Cool. Better than Disney on mescaline.”

We end up at her millionaire friend’s mansion on the outskirts of some vague place.  Tall trees, shrubs shorn into interesting designs, former presidents and such. On the way over she gives me the skinny.

“This guy, Brad’s dad, is, like, huge. He lives in Sydney now, was friends with my dad.”

We walk over the drawbridge. “Okay. How’d he make his money?”

“Who cares? Oh, he invented the post-it note, or dialysis machines. Something really major like that.”

We get into the elevator. She says, “what about your ex-wife?”

I pause. “How did you know?”

“’Cause everybody at a Stevie Nicks concert has one.” She presses 9. We start up.

“She’s dead. They think I’m responsible.”

She stares at me for a long time. “You’re so serious.” Then just before the door opens, she says, “Can you tell I have extensions? Nicky says she can. I just started my own line, called DreamCatchers. Isn’t that—”

We both look out of the elevator. It’s a beach, we’re looking at me and my dead wife.

“Cool,” Paris whispers. “It’s surreal, like we’re watching a movie.”

They’re rolling in the waves and Paris says “Gross! Saltwater is sticky yucky.”

It’s painful to watch, and I can’t stop, so I press 5. “Wait, I’m confused. Is this your dream? Or mine?”

The door closes. She says, “I didn’t catch your name.”

“It’s Dummkopf,” I say.


I nod. The door opens into a room where a man is kneeling at the bedside of the millionaire. We enter the room and after Paris introduces us, we all decide to fly first class to Los Angeles. Oh yeah, Did I mention the millionaire lives in Australia? And just before we leave, Paris says, “grab one of the dialysis machines!” I begin to wonder if I am trapped inside this potentially infinite dream, if it truly is never-ending. Limbo. Maybe I’ll never see my kids again. Images of the back of their heads plague me.

Onboard, while Brad is in the bathroom, I attempt to tell Paris how we need to develop a plan to plant an idea in Brad’s head.

“You mean, like, you’re not gay?”

Um. “Sort-of, yeah.”

“Easy, but I gotta tell you, he’s really not aging well. I thought he was gonna be a lot hotter.”

I try to swing Paris’s attention back around. “Say I tell you not to think of an elephant, what’s the first thing you do? You think of an elephant.”

She held out her hands. “Actually, I was thinking I need a mani pedi.”

Hopeless. The rest of the team assembles around us: a man who looks like he just stepped out of the Matrix (“where did he get that suit?” I ask Paris and she mouths “Fred Segal”), an African olfactory export who drives vans capably while being shot at, another man who morphs into the millionaire’s father (this will be helpful later I’m told) and when Paris admits she might be in “over her head,” I tell her just focus on the maze.

“You’re the architect,” I remind her.

“Okay, Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s?”

We all end up sleeping in first class, hooked up to the same dialysis machine fronting as a dream center. We’re on the third level now, going in deep. Meanwhile, we’re in a white van, getting chased by thugs. We tumble, and then accidentally bust through a bridge as tall as the George Washington. We begin to fall in trance-like slow motion, backwards. (Time slows way, way doooowwwwnnnn on this level).

Meanwhile, when we surface, we’re in white ski parkas on the North Pole. Or Canada. I’m not really sure. Some amorphous landscape. Turns out it’s where the millionaire is, inside this James Bond stone structure. We’re armed with Vektors, Sigs, Glocks, Berettas.  Loaded and cocked. Snowmobiles, skies, goggles, the works.

“Ever skied before?”I ask Paris.

“Hell, yeah.” We slalom, skating toward the monumental fortress.

Somehow we manage to get out only killing a few dozen people. I have a sidebar in which I reconcile my guilt about shoving my wife off the deep edge, so to speak. Seems like eternity. Paris helps me more than she knows during that part. I have no idea how. Feels like we lived lifetimes together. And yet, she goes back to grad school. Wait, maybe not. I’ve forgotten now.

As the dream winds down, I’m in that Japanese mansion, like the one at the beginning. The same guy sits at the opposite end of a long table, but he looks really ancient. We talk, it’s like “there’s no place like home” because I can go home now that I’m guilt-free. My Dad meets me at LAX, who in this dream is Michael Caine. Then at the house, my kids, when I call them, finally turn and look at me, come running. “Daddy, daddy.” I gather my son in my arms, hug my daughter to my leg. Ah, it was all worth it.

And then I wake up.

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ROBERT VAUGHAN's plays have been produced in NYC, LA, SF and Milwaukee. He leads two writing roundtables for Redbird-Redoak Studios. He has had over fifty poems and fiction published in print and online zines. He is a fiction editor at jmww magazine. He enjoys hiking, cycling and seeing the world. Find him at http://rgv7735.wordpress.com.

43 responses to “I Had a Dream”

  1. Gloria says:

    Wait… this dream is recurring? Are any of the details ever different?

    The last two paragraphs are just really outstanding. Rich and compelling. The guilt free stuff.

    I see this is filed under “movies” so I can’t tell if this is fiction or nonfiction. Either way, it’s stranger and wonderful, like any good dream.

    Michael Caine would be a fun dad. I think…


    • Gloria, I saw the movie last weekend and I have had more than one dream about it since. I started this piece the day after I saw it, then it morphed from the first to second draft, and so on, in bits and pieces. So, it’s an homage to the movie, but more non-fiction (isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing here, after all!?)
      Did you see the movie? It has gotten such mixed reviews, more than many others these days. And I agree, Michael Caine would be a fun Dad. Maybe that’s why Nolan casts him in every film?

      • Gloria says:

        I have not seen the movie. I almost never go to new movies and when I do, they’re usually released by Pixar and I have two short men with me. When I go to a grown up movie, it’s always second run and it’s always at a place where I can drink beer and my little men aren’t allowed. I would like to, though. DiCaprio is reliably great and worth watching. I respect the shit out of most of his career choices and he’s a top-notch actor. (Excepting, of course, Titanic which is in my top ten most hated movies of all time.)

        • Are the two short men just undersized? Or are they yet to be adult size? I usually don’t see newly released movies, either. Just too much hype usually. But I also like Leo and have the same exception to Titanic (HATED IT!) I wish there were more cinemas in Milwaukee where you can drink. Only a couple exist, and you’d think there would be more with Wisconsin being such a boozy state. I can assure you that when you do see the movie, this piece gives nothing away. You’ll feel like it’s all new.

        • Gloria says:

          The men are both 8 1/2. I would call them boys, but one of them pointed at the moon the other night and said, “Do you see how big and luminous it is?” and the other one recently announced that he wanted to be Jewish because half of him – his head and his feet – is Jewish.

          Portland is rife with boozing and movie opportunities. This is such a great city that way.

          And, yeah, Titanic makes me stabby in the way only J-Lo or Kate Hudson movies can. And, often, Jennifer Aniston.

        • Gloria, I agree with you on Titanic. It’s the epitome of lameness. Well, that and Avatar. Damn you, Avatar for continuing to set the bar so, so low…

          I also feel stabby about Sam Worthington movies. He is about as unnecessary a movie star as anyone, well, since Brett Favre.

        • Gloria says:

          I didn’t mind Avatar because it was, at least, pretty to look at. Titanic was a big fucking ship that just didn’t…sink…fast enough. It’s a Rom Com with the prat falls and humor. And it’s long. So long. And it manipulates feelings out of you – like Jerry McGuire (which is the one movie on the planet that makes me unhinged the most. “You complete me.” *barf*) Nonetheless, I forgive Leo his choice to do that movie and will see Inception.

          I’m not too familiar with other Sam Worthington movies. All I really know about him is he was in Avatar and he looks just like Christian Bale.

        • Gloria says:


          WithOUT the prat falls…

        • I hate Titanic with a passion too. It was on TV a few months ago, very near what I thought was the end. An hour later and the boat is still fucking floating. Just about.

          I live near Southampton, where the actual boat launched. There’s a museum there that tells so many stories far more interesting than that one.

          Kate Hudson is in a lot of shit. She’s awesome in Almost Famous though.

        • I love that this has turned into a Titanic BASH!!! Ha ha ha. I knew that would happen some day. One can only hope.

          Kate was great in Almost Famous, but she was 13. (or close) And she got to play a famous groupie.

          And Justin and James…did you read the Inception piece? Or are we just on here to bash celebrities? I would love to hear you comments (or if you haven’t seen the film yet, then perhaps after?) I mean, I’m all for calling a spade, a spade. (There are so many untalented famous people, don’t get me started. And, conversely, so many amazing talents just playing in small theaters in Sheboygan.

        • Gloria says:

          Robert, I shit you not – Sheboygan is my go to locale for any “every man” story. Or, every town, as the case may be. Sheboygan. Great word.

          Also, I applaud your valiant attempt to keep this thread on track. More power to you, my friend.

        • I only ever comment on TNB to bash celebrities…

          No, sorry I left my comment in the midst of a brief break from writing and saw an interesting looking few comments on the side of TNB’s main page.

          Haven’t seen Inception yet. I probably won’t either, because my local cinema never shows the films I really want to see. But I know vaguely about what it’s about…

          The bit with Paris Hilton seemed more like a horrible, horrible nightmare. Michael Caine would be a good father… don’t know if he’d be *my* dream dad though. And I guess he’s more grandfather age… some possible bias.

          I agree with Daly’s comment below mine about the dialogue. Genius.

          Is the last line a reference to No Country For Old Men?

        • Two things:

          Hudson was closer to 21 when she was in Almost Famous. Crudup’s character wasn’t a child molester.

          Also, whilst I respect your wish for ‘on topic’ comments, this is TNB. This is what comment threads do. They go wildly off topic a lot of the time. The comment boards are almost as important as the posts themselves, which is why TNB is so great.

          At the same time Justin and I should have at least acknowledged your work in our celebrity bashing fury. I apologise.

        • Gloria,

          Sheboygan is only an hour north of where I live. I think it has the best tone possible for a “nowheresville.”
          Anybody have some other ones they like to use?
          I wasn’t really trying to keep the thread on track as much as craving what others see in the piece, that writerly crap that really ought not to matter one iota. In truth, I like that writers generally spin off into whatever direction they might.


          Thanks for the correction about Hudson’s age in “AF.” Also for giving me your insights about I Had a Dream. Truthfully, it was just a gas to write, and I wanted to write something breezy after such a dull, dark, cerebral film. I do appreciate your support. I’m fairly new at TNB, this is only my second post. And I am just learning how colorful these threads can get. It’s all good.

          Michael Caine would probably be too old to be your Dad (and he wouldn’t be my dream dad either although he was in this one), possibly even too old to be your granddad. The last line being a reference to No Country For Old Men is just a co-inkydink.

        • Sheboygan reminds me, for no good reason, of ‘Nilbog’ from Troll 2. I expect I will not enjoy Inception as much as Troll 2…

          I did enjoy this. And I’m glad you’re hanging around in the comment threads too. A lot of new contributors just post their pieces and then leave it at that, or just post comments thanking people for comments. That’s fine, of course, but it’s more fun for everyone like this. It’s kind of like the posts’ afterparty…

          I just looked up Michael Caine’s age and it turns out he’s actually younger than my actual real life granddad. Younger and cooler. My dream granddad may well be Tommy Lee Jones. He seems like he’s be a cool granddad…

        • Gloria says:

          I think my dream dad would be Tim Robbins. My dream granddad would be Tom Robbins. That would be sweet. Then, they would actually be related – which is just gravy.

          I’m adept at taking a thread off topic. I’m like a magpie. I get distracted by anything shiny, and go in that direction.

          I agree with Irwin about comments being the post’s after party. (Great description, Irwin.)

        • You just reminded me I still haven’t read Still Life With Woodpecker yet. I haven’t finished Even Cowgirls Get The Blues yet either, but I’ve left my copy somewhere. Somewhere safe, I think. I hope.

          The greatest party of all time would be all of TNB’s writers and readers in a huge hall with an open bar. It would straddle the perfect line between rock and roll debauchery and interesting, intelligent conversation.

          Also the music would rock.

        • Gloria,
          I lived on W. 15th Street in NYC during the 1990s, on the same black as Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Not often, but every once in a while, I would see them walking in the neighborhood. My memory is that Tim always looked so happy, one of their smallish kids sitting on his infinitely tall shoulders. I often wondered what the view of Chelsea might be from up there.

          I like the idea of the TNB party, James. Let’s find a venue? The open bar might be a problem (it wreaks of corporate sponsorship) Even still, a cash bar would fly. Proceeds all go toward the new TNB Book Club. Talk it over with Brad. Gina can put up a table with Slut Lullabies. It would ROCK for sure.

        • Gloria says:

          Robert – we’ve been trying to find a TNB block party venue for years. Problem is, we’re all spread around the world. We’ve also discussed the possibility of a commune. There’s also the Brad Listi’s Dead Myspace Blog tour bus idea.

        • I suppose if we order in enough booze for the lot of us we can probably get a pretty decent deal from the various breweries, distilleries and vineyards in order to at least have an extremely cheap bar…

          Ideally it should be the house warming event for the commune. Otherwise I’m going to have to get a job, and then save loads of money so I can first get to the USA and then get around to seeing everyone…

        • A commune would be tough for me, too many distractions. I would never get any writing done. But the TNB Bus Tour, count me in! Or one of those groupie mobil homes on the road. Fun! We could find a venue or two in each stop, take the town by storm (Gloria, this was an aside to your most recent interview).

          On a completely different note, I just finished my first day of a weekend workshop with Kyle Beachy at Iowa Writers Conference. Oh my, what fun! Good times, but now I have to write a story to workshop tomorrow. Yikes.

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Robert, this dialogue is awesome.

    The whole idea is pretty intriguing, but here’s where you hooked me:

    Shrugs. “I give up. Picture time. ” She snaps a quick photo of herself.

    I can totally see that happening. Very fun read!

    • Hey Joe,

      Thanks a lot for reading this and, yeah, the whole concept is fairly experimental.

      Have you actually seen the movie Inception? I’m only wondering because I wanted to parody some of the themes, scenes, dialogue (although the entire Paris tangent is all made up).

      Anyhow, glad you enjoyed the piece!

      • Joe Daly says:

        I haven’t seen Inception yet, but I plan on fixing that this week. Was some of this taken from Inception? If so, it would be funny to see that move and laugh as scenes from your piece here popped up during the movie!

        • Well, Joe, I’m actually not sure if any of this is from the movie! Too funny, huh? It was all in my mind once I saw it, and I wanted to write it like a parody, but I’m uncertain if it came across that way. It doesn’t matter really. I

          t was thrilling to write and that matters the most. Please let me know what you think of the movie!

  3. Shari says:

    This is hilarious, the dialogue is fantastic! I love the bizarre idea that we are inside the dream of the person who created that movie about dreams. The entire premise is so YOU! Beyond that, I like the scenes that we slip in and out of (Stevie Nicks “Dreams” is a fun reference)…and Paris is purrrfect! Keep up the great work.

  4. Simon Smithson says:

    I wish I was related to Michael Caine.

    I’m seeing Inception on Sunday. I’ll report back afterwards.

    • I wish I was M.C. too! Would love to hear from you, Simon, after you have seen the movie. Thanks for your comments.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        You know what? I saw it last night… and I…

        I did not care for it, Robert. I did not care for it much at all.

        • Robert Vaughan says:

          Hi Simon,

          Sorry to hear it, but I’m not at all surprised. I would say that more people who see it say the same thing than folks I know who love it (and there are those!)

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I’m amazed by people saying it’s at all complex. It isn’t. The last time I saw a film that had characters expressing what was going to happen so clearly was Dude, Where’s My Car.

          And you know…

          The more you think about it, the more you can draw comparisons between the two.

        • Robert Vaughan says:

          I love the comparison between those two movies, Simon- that’s hilarious.

          And the more I think about it I believe you are absolutely correct. In fact, I think there was more complexity expressed in Dude, Where’s My Car!!!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Seriously, think about it:

          – characters who constantly reel off a list of what’s going to happen next? Check.

          – an ending that could undo the rest of the events of the movie? Check.

          – a beginning where no one is entirely sure what’s happening? Check.

          – a powerful female villain? Check.

          – resolution that occurs only when mysterious events of the past come to light? Check.

          – kidnapping? Check.

          – characters who spend the movie on the run? Check.

          – foreign people who recruit the heroes for an ultra-important mission? Check.

        • = Minds who think alike? Check. Thanks for your brilliant comparison!

  5. Theodore says:

    I’m seeing Inception this weekend and this makes me want to see it even more! Thanks for posting, it was a fun read.

  6. Dana says:

    I loved the trailer I saw for Inception several months ago and had really been looking forward to it (put me in the like Leo, hate Titanic club) and then the reviews were lousy. I hate critics. Damnit, I’m gonna see it.

    Robert this was great! I was certain that you had stumbled into one of my dreams. I dream with regularity about celebrities, and usually ones I don’t care a whit about. Like Stevie or Paris. Heh. Like Joe mentioned above, Paris snapping a picture was perfect!

  7. Hi Dana,

    Go see the movie, for sure, like, yeah! Hehehe. Thanks for reading this and for your comments. In reality, the entire piece was written during a tornado in which my entire roof was blown off by the three little pigs and I ate them all even though I am vegetarian (because I was so pissed). No, seriously, though. You have to see the film, and then re-read this piece. I hope there is some thing that jumps from the page and you say RARAH! (that’s a Blazing Saddles steal)

    I am glad some other person dreams about celebrities besides me. And you are right about the ‘whit about’ part: Last night, Jamie Lee Curtis was selling me on that bed that you can set a full wine glass down on and jump up and down, only she was trying to show me some “other” things that we could do besides jump, if you know what I mean. And I was wearing her Bionic Woman outfit, and she couldn’t get it off me (I was literally sewn into it, like my skin was.) I woke up laughing. That was great.

  8. Matt says:

    Saw the movie this weekend. Loved it. Loved this riff, too.

    Also: fuck Titanic!

  9. Robert Vaughan says:

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your comments and glad you enjoyed the movie as well as the fun I had with the dream in which I dreamed about it. Ha! And Titanic, well, yes! On your boat in this sense.

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